Saturday, November 10, 2012


Science, sometimes it's worthwhile:

Take a look at the bottle of antibacterial hand soap in your bathroom. Chances are good that a particular chemical is listed among its ingredients: triclosan.

The antibacterial substance, which was first developed in the 1960s to prevent bacterial infections in hospitals, has since been incorporated into everything from hand soaps to toothpastes to mouthwashes. Manufacturers see it as a marketing bonus, increasing consumer confidence that a particular product kills harmful bacteria. Even some household products—such as kitchen utensils, toys and bedding—include triclosan.

In recent years, though, research has shed light on a number of problems with employing triclosan so widely. Studies have shown that the chemical can disrupt the endocrine systems of several different animals, binding to receptor sites in the body, which prevents the thyroid hormone from functioning normally. Additionally, triclosan penetrates the skin and enters the bloodstream more easily than previously thought, and has turned up everywhere from aquatic environments to human breast milk in troubling quantities.

To this list of concerns, add one more: A new paper, published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, indicates that triclosan impairs muscle function in both animals and humans....

Antibacterial soap is something I've been weary of from the beginning. I mean, what was wrong with the way we were washing up in the Melania prior to its introduction? Don't get me wrong, if you've got an open wound or a compromised immune system, there's a justification for antibacterials. But in the regular world, you're going to be running into bacteria thirty seconds after you dry your hands. (or maybe while you're drying your hands) Bacteria are everywhere.

I don't know if the science of the triclosan study is sound. It could easily be over-hyped, but regardless, I don't see a need to regularly slather our hands with antibacterials.

Sheesh, I sound like a hippie. Next thing you know I'll be an organic 8th degree vegan with a smelly poncho and a dog named Toke. Anyway: that's my two cents. (or scents)


Veeshir said...

I avoid it as well.

All we're doing with the proliferance of antibacterials is producing new breeds of super bacteria.

In the 70s Mad Magazine wrote something like, "All we're doing when we get rid of the things that cause cancer in rats is to ensure that rats live longer."

I've applied that to other things and never used the antibiotics I was prescribed every time I got a sore throat.

Ten Mile Island said...

You're right to be wary. But science, alas, has fallen prey to headlines. How rigorous was the referenced study? Really, no way to tell.

But, it does make for the sexy headline.

Anonymous said...


I won't use the anti-bacterials either. I have a really hard time finding pump hand soap that isn't antibacterial; I basically have one choice. And I thought this was America!

GregMan said...

Soaps and detergents already contain one of the most powerful antibacterials out there: Sodium dodecyl sulfate, otherwise knows as detergent or soap. Everything else is marketing department fluff.